We recently talked about the Read for Fun movement on Twitter, considering the ways a love for reading (for its own sake) can be overtaken by the need (read: requirement) to read for work or study. Part of that conversation was about where we read for fun, and how we read for fun. Here’s one book-lover’s take on reading for fun.
The act of reading is at once reflective, imaginative, communal, solitary, quiet—an altogether powerful undertaking. Picking up a book is like shaking the hand of a stranger, inviting her into your living room, and, through a series of gestures and preparations, coming to an arrangement of how you both will occupy the next few hours of the day. The author has set out a story, and the reader willingly undergoes the adventure, not knowing if it will cause heartbreak, laughter, anger, or even all three.
The mystery is what makes books so enticing to me. There are, of course, little peeks and cracks in the tale that I can leaf through and catch onto. The back cover or book jacket will sometimes reveal; turning to the middle of a page can provide an unscripted glance into the kinds of characters I’m going to become friends with. Recommendations from friends, book clubs, or the Staff Picks shelf at my local bookshop can also provide interesting clues. There is the world the author creates on purpose, but upon being given to a reader, that world can expand into twelve more.
Reading, then, is a kind of magic. Professor Dumbledore understood the transformative power of words, as does Doctor Who. Though not flesh and blood, these characters are real to me in the sense that they understand something about reading, writing, and the community forged between them that some days I struggle to remember:
Reading is fun.
Yes, there are textbooks and graded papers and breakup letters and past-due bill notices. But there are also hobbit songs, unicorn adventures, children living in a smuggler’s hotel, and redemption by way of identity. The process of selecting a story is choosing to put yourself into a world that is unfamiliar, in order to find the familiar in our own lives. Stories help us remember things we have forgotten that were at one point second nature. These are always personal. Some of us may have forgotten how to laugh. Others may have lost the ability to be soft towards life. Maybe others need a motivational push, encouragement, or a new dream.
Books have it, whatever it may be. This is why I choose to read. The things I have forgotten and remembered in my journeys through Middle Earth, graveyards, and the sea are too many to count. I can always trust a book to be the north star. The ways I choose to read reflect the comfort and clarity I’m seeking in these stories. Normally, this means I am nestled on the couch in my living room, so aptly named. Here I can survey my children in their play but retain my own atmosphere. They hardly notice me until I intervene in their squabbles. Sometimes I’ll pop out for a green tea latte at a local tea house, or take a blanket to a clearing in the woods behind our apartment complex. Decadent treats.
There are also moments I get so lost in the stories, I very nearly fall into them. Somehow or another, my hair ends up tied back or braided. I think I do this most when I’m anxious or anticipating something profound, and I need to be free from any stray strands. Maybe my subconscious thinks I’ll absorb the story better that way. It’s also a nervous tick: my hands need to be doing something when my adrenaline is high. Braiding is a nonintrusive occupation, so long as I can hold the book open with the tips of my feet.
Above all, being a reader means I become an inventor, a magician, an observer, and a participator. I can combine the paradoxical parts of myself into one whole person, thread together the different acts I play in a day—through a strange, intimate story. In reading, my heart finds healing—and knowing—so I keep pulling titles from their delicious wooden shelves.
Follow copywriter and poet, Laura, as she tries to figure out how to write a novel to meet Megan Willow’s challenge: a book by September.
Find yourself in this story of The Novelist. A novella by L.L. Barkat.